Linda Sealy Receives AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement

In 2016, Linda Sealy also was honored for her efforts to promote equity, diversity and inclusion at Vanderbilt University, when she became the first recipient of the university's Joseph A. Johnson Jr. Distinguished Leadership Professor Award. | Neil Orman/AAAS

Linda Sealy, director of the Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity at Vanderbilt University, has been selected to receive the 2018 Lifetime Mentor Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The distinction honors her work in recruiting and mentoring underrepresented minority students.

Sealy serves as associate dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for Basic Sciences at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. During her career as a faculty member in molecular physiology and cancer biology, Sealy mentored more than 55 underrepresented students through completion of their PhDs at the university. She has also mentored 13 students who have gone on to complete doctoral degrees at other institutions. Under Sealy’s leadership, the IMSD program adopted holistic admissions to biomedical graduate training over a decade ago. Upon acceptance, minority students become part of a supportive community of diverse IMSD scholars that eases their transition to graduate school and ensures their success.

Sealy was nominated by Lorena Infante Lara, a Ph.D. candidate studying biochemistry at Vanderbilt University, who has known Sealy since arriving at the university in 2013. In a nomination letter, Infante Lara wrote that Sealy has been “extensively involved in the expansion of diversity at Vanderbilt.” She added that, with Sealy’s help, Vanderbilt was the school with the highest number of African American doctoral graduates nationwide in the biological and biomedical sciences during 2014-2015.

Karinna Almodovar, a postdoctoral fellow at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, participated in the IMSD program and was mentored by Sealy. In a letter of support, Almodovar wrote that she has received “invaluable support, suggestions, continuous encouragement and guidance” from Sealy throughout her doctoral and postdoctoral training. “I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to benefit from her exceptional mentoring,” Almodovar wrote. “She is truly everything I look for in a mentor.”

In 2016, Sealy became the first recipient of the Joseph A. Johnson Jr. Distinguished Leadership Professor Award, honoring her efforts to promote equity, diversity and inclusion at Vanderbilt. Sealy, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, was one of more than 1,800 indigenous scientists and allies who signed a statement endorsing the 2017 March for Science.

Sealy earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Illinois Wesleyan University, and completed her Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of Iowa in 1980. She also completed postdoctoral fellowships at the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the University of California, San Francisco and the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

“As a minority graduate student,” Infante Lara wrote, “I have come into close contact with Linda and have seen firsthand the support and mentoring that she provides to her students.” Infante Lara added that “it is clear that [Sealy’s] interactions have huge impacts in all our lives.”

The AAAS Mentor Award for Lifetime Achievement honors AAAS members who have mentored significant numbers of underrepresented students working toward completion of a Ph.D. in science,

technology, engineering and mathematics and/or are significantly affecting the climate of a department, college or institution, or field in such a manner as to significantly increase the diversity of students pursuing and completing PhDs in STEM fields. To be considered for the Lifetime Mentor Award, candidates must demonstrate scholarship, activism and community building. Nominees must have more than 25 years of mentoring experience. The award includes a $5,000 prize, a commemorative plaque and complimentary registration to the AAAS Annual Meeting, as well as reimbursement for reasonable travel and hotel expenses to attend the meeting.

The award will be bestowed upon Sealy during the 184th AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas on Feb. 18, 2018.